Havre Daily News
“My dog ate my homework” may no longer be an excuse for Havre students - unless Spot can devour a whole computer.
Technology has made it possible for students to access their homework and classroom notes from their home computers, so kids will have no excuses for missing assignments, Havre Public Schools assistant superintendent Dennis Parman said Wednesday.
The digital notetaking is just one way technology is being used in Havre classrooms, and local voters in May will consider two three-year mill levies to help fund technology maintenance and upgrades for Havre schools.
Elementary schools would receive $80,000 annually and Havre High School would receive $40,000 yearly for the purchase and maintenance of equipment, including computers and wireless Internet access points.
At Tuesday's meeting of the Havre school board, superintendent Kirk Miller said the new purchases would benefit students and help prepare them for the future. Schools' staff members have been researching options and updates and “the time is right to receive the funding,” he said.
In the first year, money would be used to upgrade the schools' equipment and train the staff.
He said residents would pay about $1.40 a month per $100,000 property valuation for the two levies.
School board vice chair Kathie Newell said she is impressed that the schools have “done as well as we have without one of these (levies).”
“Technology shows us that it's just going to continue to get more advanced and more expensive,” she added.
Parman estimated the total cost for updating, replacing and maintaining 20 percent of the schools' computer equipment at about $150,000. The levies would be used to cover $120,000 of those costs, with the difference coming out of the general fund. At that rate, the system would get a complete overhaul every five years.
He said Havre schools have about 700 computers. So far, technology improvements have been paid for out of the general fund and by using occassional state funds raised from timber sales.
Technical advances already used in the schools include teachers' access to e-mail in their classrooms, the online Parent @ School program through which parents can access their childrens' grades and homework assignments, and overhead projectors, which can display video clips accessed online.
Parman said “multimedia classrooms,” which include computers with DVD players, surround-sound speakers and projectors, come with a price of about $4,000 each. Havre has six such classrooms set up at the high school, five at the middle school and one in each of the three elementary schools.
The plan is to add seven more if funding becomes available.
Parman used the example of a lesson on geology in which a teacher could access one of 40,000 digital video clips from The Discovery Channel with a computer and display the clip to enhance the lesson.
Digital microscopes are used in some Havre classrooms, allowing teachers to display 10-foot images of small specimens.
Two HPS teachers are testing the use of laptop computers to produce electronic notes in their own handwriting, which then can be projected on a screen and printed out for absent students.
“Teachers don't have to write ‘saved' on the board like before. At the end of the day, the notes are saved on the computer instead of being erased by the custodian,” Parman said.
He said the plan is to post the notes on a Web site so students could access them from their home computer.
“That way, if a student forgot their notes at school or couldn't read their handwriting, they could get the notes off the computer,” Parman said.
The vote will be held May 2 in the Havre High School gym.